Fibromyalgia is thought to be an autoimmune disease that causes widespread chronic pain. This pain manifests in the muscles throughout the body and ranges from moderate to severe pain. Regular exercise and stretches have been found to decrease pain levels in fibromyalgia patients. There are medications that are used to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia, but they come with a plethora of side-affects. Many people try to use natural methods to manage their fibromyalgia pain and only use medication when it is absolutely necessary. The following stretches should be used on a daily basis to achieve the best results. They can be used several times a day to stretch out muscle spasms, which will decrease pain. The spine and muscles surrounding the spine are interconnected, it is important to not only stretch the upper back but to stretch and exercise the cervical and lumbar spine in addition to the thoracic spine.
- Chin Tuck: This stretch will release tension in the cervical spine and the shoulders, reducing pain in the upper back. Sit with your back straight. Push shoulders down and back. Hold head straight, chin should be parallel to the floor. Imagine there is a string on the bottom of your chin, pull chin back between shoulders, keeping chin and head parallel to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5-10 times.
- Cervical Spinal Flexion Stretch: This stretch will open the spaces between the vertebrae, relieving pressure on the nerves and gently stretching the muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back. Sit or stand with good posture. Hips and shoulders should be in alignment. Gently tilt head forward, tucking chin towards your chest. Shoulders should not hunch forward. You will feel a stretch in your neck and upper back. Hold the stretch 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Lateral Flexion Stretch: This stretch works on the Sternocleidomastoid muscle which is the largest in the neck and attaches to the upper back and shoulder area. It also stretches the trapezius muscles. Sit or stand with back straight, shoulders down and back. Head should be looking straight ahead, chin parallel to the floor. Slowly tilt head to the side, moving ear towards your shoulder. Stop when you feel the stretch and hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Repeat sequence 5-10 times.
- Upper Back Stretch: Sit or stand with good posture. Keep head still, chin parallel to the floor. Start with shoulders back and down. Press shoulder blades together towards the spine. Hold for 5 seconds. Now move arms forward, letting shoulders roll forward. Clasp hands in front of you and pull shoulders forward. Hold for 5 seconds keeping shoulders down; slowly pull shoulders back to a neutral position. Repeat sequence 5-10 times.
- Deltoid Stretch: This will release tension in the shoulders and upper back. Sit or stand with good posture. Take one arm and clasp the wrist with the opposite arm. While keeping shoulder down, use one arm to pull the other arm forward and across body. Hold stretch 5-10 seconds. Release and repeat on other side. Repeat sequence 5-10 times.
Several more stretches and exercises can decrease and prevent fibromyalgia pain. A physical therapist can help you develop an appropriate stretching and exercise routine.